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Stargazer


Irina Pavlova
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Stargazer

The woman and the little girl stood in silence as the snow blew all around them. The girl was bundled from head-to-toe and looked more like a bright blue marshmallow than a human being. The woman on the other hand could have fit any era in this place wearing as she was a grey wool long coat with an upturned fur collar, tall black leather boots and thin leather gloves. Her light brown hair was capped with a traditional Russian fur hat.

The two of them just stood there looking down at the old grave marker.

Dimitri Popov

Born October 10, 2144

Died March 7, 2156

Stargazer

The stone was old now, worn and weathered by 150 harsh Russian winters, but the words could still be read. That one word told the man’s story. Stargazer, it was who and what Dimitri was, on all levels, and in all ways.

The story began centuries ago in a humble mid-20th century Soviet-era apartment building that 100 years after construction remained as working-class accommodations for ordinary Russian families who couldn’t afford the nicer parts of St. Petersburg, but weren’t so poor as to live in the slums. The building was clean, spacious and while old, had a certain charm. In addition to it, specifically apartment 212 being the boyhood home of Dimitri Popov, it, as in apartment 209, was the home of Irina Pavlova, four-months-older than Dimitri, and the very same woman who would, 247 years later, stand out in the blowing snow holding her daughter’s hand looking down at Dimitri’s grave.

Dimitri and Irina, Irina and Dimitri. The pair were inseparable for the first 22 years of their lives. They did everything together, from Dimitri staying in the care of Irina’s Aunt every day while both sets of parents went to work, to being in the same classes at the same schools and even playing on the same sports teams. Irina was always the star athlete, captain of the football (soccer) team, ballet, swimming, every sport she touched, she dominated. Dimitri was nowhere near her league and usually played third string if not just warming the bench, but they were still closer than siblings.

Neither one of them dated, as somehow they just knew that they would always be together. They graduated from high school together, and even joined the Marines together, though as with sports before, Irina was always on a whole other level when it came to fitness and military skills. From the first time on the shooting range even the drill sergeants knew they were in the presence of greatness, and somehow, Dimitri was always there at her side. They went to Recon Sniper school as a team, she the shooter and he the support, carrying the tripod, ammunition and spotting her shots, though never needing to call position as she simply never missed.

It was only when the newly formed Starfleet launched the first of its ambitious five-year-missions that finally separated Dimitri and Irina, with Commodore Moretti asking for Irina’s assignment as his armory officer by name; unheard of for a brand new officer, especially a marine. Strings were pulled, arrangements made, and Irina Pavlova became the only marine assigned to USS Columbia, NX-03. The night before she left, she told him she loved him. He proposed, and they spent their first night together as lovers, and their last night together period. That morning she made him promise to wait, to which he replied that five years was nothing, that he would one hundred.

Stargazer. Every night after Columbia set sail Dimitri looked up into the stars. He bought and later built greater and greater telescopes, hoping to see the same stars Irina was visiting. He learned of the birth of their daughter nine months after Columbia’s departure, and a year later when he mustered out of the Marines, he took a job at the most desolate outpost in Antarctica because it had the clearest skies and Earth’s best observatory. He started as just a janitor, but eventually became recognized by the scientists for his knowledge of astronomy and was elevated to lab assistant and eventually staff astronomer.

Three years into Columbia’s mission the ship was listed as missing in action, but Dimitri knew that the love of his life and the daughter he had never met were still out there, and he kept looking for them. A year later the ship was listed as missing, presumed lost with all hands, but Dimitri never gave up hope. He knew that if he just looked hard enough, somehow he would find them despite the knowledge that the light he was looking at was millions, if not billions of years old. He knew one day he would be notified of her return, pack his bags and return to Russia to be reunited with his love. They would share stories of the many worlds she had visited in person, and he, the Stargazer, had seen through the great observatory telescope. He died waiting for that call, always gazing at the stars.

Of course Irina thought about him constantly at first. She learned of her pregnancy a few weeks into Columbia’s voyage, and wrote to him constantly those first three years. When the Columbia was attacked by three smaller, though more powerful ships and barely escaped in one piece, the writing stopped and the missing in action report went out. Columbia did in fact survive, traveled tremendous distances through what is now known as the Aurix II wormhole and emerged on the other side with failed life support and one damaged and one obliterated warp nacelle, though through blind luck a fully functioning warp drive.

With no life support, the USS Columbia took up a stable orbit around the only remotely habitable planet within their 72 hour travel range, the second planet of an unidentified system now known as Kjenta. Kjenta II was a post-apocalyptic wasteland with extremely high gravity, harsh weather and an atmosphere impenetrable by scanners and worse yet, it drained all electricity from anything that passed through it. Columbia’s first evacuation wave crashed rather than landed on Kjenta II, and the rest of the survivors including young Katya Pavlova were put into cryogenic stasis before the breathable oxygen was entirely consumed.

Irina’s story didn’t end, and every night she would look up at the night sky and think of Dimitri back home, at first hoping he kept his promise, and later praying he had not. Kjenta II, harsh as it was, had a strange type of solar radiation that prevented organic cellular decay. Much like the metaphysic radiation found on the planet Ba’ku, the multi-phasic radiation of the Kjenta star rejuvenated all life on the planet’s barren surface. Irina stayed on that miserable rock for 219 years because her eventual rescue.

At the end of those 219 years she had long since lost all hope that Dimitri was still alive, but she still had hope. Hope that their daughter was somehow still alive in stasis on the Columbia, and perhaps even more than that, hope that Dimitri had not kept his promise, that he had not waited.

“Why are you crying mommy?” the little blue marshmallow girl asked her mother.

“Stargazer” Irina replied.

“What does that mean?” Katya persisted.

“It means that he liked to look at the stars.”

“I like looking at stars too” Katya replied proudly.

“Even when I’m gone, if you look up at the stars, you’ll know I’m looking at them too.”

“Did that man look for you?”

“He looked for both of us. All his life he looked up at the stars, waiting for us to come back to him.”

Even at age 6, Katya understood how long they were away. She knew the story well, had read her mother’s diaries and saw the pictures of her and Dimitri together. “Do you still love him?” she asked, strangely sounding far older than her age.

“I’ll always love your father Printzyess, and I’ll always love you.”

“So why didn't you stay with him if you loved him?”

“I was so eager to explore the stars, and he had always been at my side. I knew he would wait for me. I made him promise to wait for me.

“What did he say?”

“He said “Five years is nothing, I’ll wait 100 years for you. And every night I’ll look at the stars and know that you are looking at the same stars as I am.”

“Did he wait 100 years?”

“Almost. He died before the time was up. He never broke his promise, a promise I should never have asked him to make.”

The woman and the girl just stood there for almost an hour despite the setting sun and the blowing snow. After a while the stars came out in the night sky and Irina squeezed katya’s hand. “Come Printzyessa, its time to go.”

“Are you still waiting for him mommy?”

Irina looked up at the stars briefly as another tear slid down her cheek. “I’m finished waiting Printzyessa. I ruined his life, I won’t ruin what’s left of yours and mine.”

They stood and looked up for another moment, then both turned and walked back toward the waiting shuttle.

Major Irina Pavlova

Chief Tactical Officer

Duronis II Embassy / USS Thunder A

Edited by asiafish
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